Brighton 2020/21: Can Graham Potter's side take flight after strong end to 2019/20?

A strong end to 2019/20 raised hopes around the Amex Stadium that another relegation battle might not be on the cards next time around. But can Graham Potter's men keep up their momentum this season?

It was not until the first game of the coronavirus restart that Brighton finally picked up their first three points of 2020 with a superb last-gasp win against Arsenal - and despite playing Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City in their last nine games, stayed up relatively comfortably with a seven-point cushion over the bottom three.

Potter was given some leeway in a transition season where he successfully overhauled Brighton's playing style and shape into a more expansive system - but expectation levels will undoubtedly be higher on the south coast after a year in the job.

Where they stand

When the Premier League restarted in June Brighton re-emerged very much at a crossroads, having picked up only 14 points from their previous 18 games to put a serious dampener on what had been a good start to the season under Graham Potter.

And with Arsenal first up at the AmEx, it looked like things might get worse before they got better - until Neal Maupay's last-minute winner inspired an end to the campaign which saw Potter's men move away from danger and stay up relatively comfortably.

  • Brighton open with Monday home game vs Chelsea

Three clean sheets from nine games certainly helped as even with that upturn in form, the Seagulls only managed to find the back of the net seven times during that period, leaving it crystal clear where they would need to improve for this season.

Where they're strong

Brighton appear to be undertaking a rapid style transition under Graham Potter, with passing and pressing stats akin to some of the top teams.

The Seagulls also covered a league-topping 4,281 km during the campaign but the next stage of development should focus on transforming hard work and possession into final product.

Where they need to improve

The Seagulls scored 39 goals last season - only four teams netted fewer. But it would be unfair not to mention Sheffield United scored the same number of goals and finished ninth.

However, if you click through the interactive tabs in the graphic below, you will see the Blades also ranked bottom for attempts on goal - suggesting a conservative approach to achieve a higher conversion from clearer chances.

In contrast, the Seagulls ranked eighth in the league with 462 shots at goal - more than Tottenham, Arsenal and Wolves - and their modest returns were compounded by missing 48 big chances. So greater accuracy and patience is in order.

Key man

Lewis Dunk showed his importance to Brighton by claiming the club's player of the season award last season - the captain started all but two games, scored three times and was an instrumental part of a changing defence which conceded the same number of goals across the campaign as Chelsea.

The England international was named captain by Potter last season and took to the role like a duck to water. "I think his role as captain is one he's grown into and one he will do better and better for the next few years," his manager said after the defender signed a new five-year contract at the club last month.

Dunk's importance was underlined by blocking the fifth-most shots across the entire Premier League last season, and recording the second-highest tally for winning the ball back in his own third. Asked to play in a slightly more creative role by Potter he adapted with relative ease - also completing the 17th-highest number of forward passes of any player in the division.

One to watch

Leandro Trossard enjoyed a relatively successful first season in English football at the Amex, netting five times and creating 42 chances for his team-mates.

But the Belgian international has made a reputation as a goalscoring midfielder in his time in his homeland, and if Brighton are to improve on their somewhat meagre tally of 39 this season, he will certainly be expected to chip in further.

What is success for Brighton in 2020/21?

Brighton's 15th-placed finish last season was their Premier League record high, and building on that will be the priority for Graham Potter's side. Another mid-table finish will certainly be a promising return, but as the club owner made clear when dismissing Chris Hughton just over a year ago, flirting with relegation is not on the club's agenda.

Under Hughton the Seagulls enjoyed back-to-back strong runs in the FA Cup, reaching the semi-finals in 2019, but they were eliminated from both early on last season. Potter has been dealt a useful early hand in this year's Carabao Cup, and the Seagulls can reach round four without facing a single Premier League side along the way. A good showing in either knock-out tournament, coupled with a comfortable season of stability in the league, would certainly be welcomed.

Source: Sky Sports 

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